In one of the dopest interviews we’ve done, we got a chance to chop it up with MI from Constant Deviants about their new project Omerta and much, much more. What started as a discussion about the project turned into a conversation about Constant Deviants, MI’s background in Hip Hop, the current culture, creativity and myriad of other Hip Hop related gems. In fact, we’ve split this interview up into pieces just so folks can properly appreciate the depth. Check Part 1 below!
Interviewer: I thought I’d kick it off with asking about the new project, Omerta, dropped June 28th. And some folks might not know Omerta is the code of silence for the Mafia. So the album’s got a whole theme, like a story to it?
MI: Yeah, I mean it’s not necessarily like a movie per se but it’s conceptual but it’s not like overbearing either; it’s not like how Kool G rapped it, and it’s not like songs follow up on each other and stuff like that, but you know metaphorically we try to use like mob slang and mob metaphors and stuff like that and samples that are kind of represented that time period and stuff like that to give that feeling for the album.
Interviewer: Right and you’ve got …you’ve turned yourselves into characters Luciano and Lanski?
MI: Luciano and Lanski yeah.
Interviewer: How did you choose those characters?
MI: It kind of popped in my head one day cause I was like…well you know I’m Italian and Cutt is Russian so when we decided to do it, it was like “You know what Luciano…because they were partners…we’ve been partners for so long doing this music thing that it was like when you get through the mob shit, let’s do it like that, and initially it was an EP, and we wanted to do it… like wanted to do it after we dropped Avant Garde, cause Avant Garde was kind of smooth and a little more like jazzy and smoother than our normal albums, and there was a few people to have referred to it like yeah it’s a different sound for them whatever, and that’s what we were going for, so it’s cool. But we were like “You know let’s do an EP real quick…” and to just drop them, like drop like six hard joints on them real quick just to show we still got those hard hitting joints. When we started working on the project it just kind of took a life of its own. We weren’t even going to do that under Constant Deviants, it was just going to be the Luciano and Lanski EP…
Interviewer: Oh interesting.
MI: Yeah, and as we started working on it it was like “Now this needs to be an LP…” because it was just… it was coming along so dull that it was like “No, you know what, let’s do it whereas SIX2SIX Records presents Constant Deviants as Luciana Lanski and Omerta, and then give it like that movie theme” ….put the LP together.
Interviewer: So you must have just like hit like a creative goldmine. What was the process like taking it from an EP to an LP?
MI: It kind of just flowed man, it just kind of took a life…one thing about me Cutt, we’ve been working together for so long it’s almost like we know what each other are thinking, and once we come up with…even with Avant Garde it was just…we knew what we wanted to go for for that project, we knew what sound we wanted to create. We wanted to create a sound that was… still had that 90s feel but then it felt more modern, it sounded…and everything, it sounded more up-to-date, and that’s what we went for. And then it just kind of takes a life of its own, it’s like we set ourselves in that mold and it just kind of happens. And Omerta started with So Underrated was actually…it was coincidence that that would be the first single because that was the first song we recorded for the project and we’d talked about like what sound we wanted to go for. We actually came up with the concept in Switzerland, it’s funny that both of those albums the concepts were inspired in Switzerland.
Interviewer: Yeah, I remember that.
MI: Yeah it was…we were actually… we did a song…we did a show in Switzerland for Sean Price and the mood of that night just kind of had me like “Yeah man!” You know hearing his music and stuff, hearing him perform and stuff that night just inspired me to want to do something hard again. We’d just done Avant Garde so I just wanted to do something hard again, and I was like “Yeah, let me do something to bang out a little harder…we need something to kind of incorporate that’s current…” And that’s what kind of brought it to light.
So when we got back he did So Underrated, he recorded that. And then it just…it just kind of took a life of its own, and it’s like… we try to put cohesive albums together, and it’s like we pay attention to a lot of things like samples and like instrumentation in the samples. Cutt likes to sample pianos a lot, but we try not to OD on piano samples. It’s like when we got…you know this one’s got a guitar in it, so we got that sample. We try to make it a full LP from all the way down to the samples and everything, drums and everything, so we go for different feelings, different tempos and all of that. So like I said, it just kind of takes a life of its own and then as we put it together it’s like this is actually the only album we’ve ever put together that there was no extra songs, we didn’t record 20 songs and put this album together. Every song that’s on that album was recorded for that album when we made the album, and that’s the first time that we’ve ever done that actually cause normally we’ll record 20/25 songs and then put an album together. This particular album it was just like…we didn’t want to make it too long and we still wanted to maintain the feeling of like…like I said, initially it was an EP so we didn’t want to make it like 15 or 16 songs, we wanted to kind of still keep it like a short album that got straight to the point. And it’s not super short but it’s just not like…I think it was like 12 or 13 songs on it, but it’s not like some albums nowadays you know 15,16,17 songs on the album.
We try to keep our albums a little shorter anyway just to kind of keep that feel from the 80s and the 90s back when albums were like 10, 12 songs, like not super long.
Interviewer: Right, it’s like letting cats digest it and get ready for the next one.
MI: Yeah and if you get to the point, you’re going to give them a good album and not many songs that you don’t need, you don’t need to give somebody 16 or 17 songs if it’s a good album. The second you do that the chances are you got a whole bunch of songs on there that are unnecessary anyway, like they could have kept those four…like those four songs could have been leak joints, or whatever.
Interviewer: So that it sounds like regardless you guys always kind of have a plan, you don’t just go make music to making music, you think about a project or like how the song you’re working on fits into the bigger picture.
MI: Into the project.
Interviewer: Into the project. Alright.
MI: Yes of course, cause I think that’s one of the biggest things missing in Hip Hop today is the fact that you got a bunch of beats and rhymes and you got dull producers to make dull beats, you got dull MCs that can rap but that’s all we have is just a bunch of like dull beats with dull rhymes all over them but it’s not…nobody’s making songs anymore and I think that’s where we’re falling short and that’s why it’s not really grown past where it is cause nobody’s making songs, nobody’s making albums, everybody’s doing mixed tapes, free styles and stuff like that. And the talent is there, it’s just that…I’m not saying people don’t know…cause every song isn’t like…I could get on…Real Wordy and Wordplay and stuff like that on every song if I wanted to, I don’t want to, every song isn’t for that you know, and I want to make music. Like I was telling somebody recently in an interview like…I want to look out at the audience to see…like I want to make records for women, I want to see women in the audience, I wanted to see what to do with that audience throwing their hands in the air, and that’s it. I want to see…I want to try Black Moon and …them shows back in the day still had women at them, women are still fans of their music cause they had albums, they made music that as listenable, it’s not just battle raps and hard rhymes and “I’m better than you” and stuff. I mean I’ve been rapping my whole life so of course I can do that, but I don’t really want to go for that on every song, on every album, it’s like I got to have some type of balance.
Interviewer: Yeah man, I remember like in…we listened to a lot of Duck Down stuff when we were younger, and like the chicks loved Smith and Wesson, yeah and it’s like what you’re saying, it’s like it’s… you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to love it but…
MI: Yeah, because it’s not like they’re rapping to the women or anything, it’s like if a girl likes rap music, that’s got adult feel, it’s got a good vibe…Mobb Deep, another perfect example, women love this stuff. Gangstarr, Pete Rock, CL Smooth. I mean it’s not, you know like Mobb Deep, these cats made albums, they made records. It’s like every song doesn’t have to have features all over it, you know one verse one guy’s rapping about this, and another verse somebody’s rapping about this and we’re trying to tie it together with some chorus that doesn’t really tie the song together, nobody’s on the same page. It’s like, “Make a record man, make a three-verse song that is a conceptual song…” And I’m not saying that every song needs to be conceptual, but make it so it’s cohesive, so the flow goes with the beat, your vocal tone go with the instrumentation in the samples or the music that’s being played, or whatever. Everything doesn’t have to be “I’m badder than you….” or “I’m more lyrical than you…” That stuff has a time and a place, of course I respect that as a MC, I respect that inside of the art as well but I’m not…me personally, I’m not shooting for that, you know what I’m saying, that’s not what I’m going for.
Interviewer: So like when you first were rapping, was that what you were going for? Like how did you…
MI: Yeah, when I was younger you know we came in the game battle rapping and stuff like that, but that’s how you sharpen your sword, that’s how you become good at what you do. You know yeah we used to go around sort of multiple spots and battle people, and…rap and stuff like that, but that’s how you learn how to make music, that’s how you learn how to rap; that’s how you get your breath patrol right, that’s how you get your confidence up and stuff like that, you’ve got to go out there and do that, you’ve got to train.
Interviewer: So what was that point for you where it switched from like an exercise or competition to crafting a piece of art I guess?
MI: I learned early, like I…when me and Cutt linked up, it was like we wanted to make music and we began to make songs and we recorded Competition Catch Speed Knots, and that was like one of the…it wasn’t the first song we recorded but it was one of the earlier songs we recorded together. We got a little Hindi deal with this Hindi record label called Vestry Records, and they put it out and it immediately forced us, because the song did well in the underground market…it immediately forced us to…cause they were trying you know “Ah let’s get it on Hot 97, let’s get something for Hot 97″…so it immediately forced us to make a record that could go on Hot 97, and we tried, and at the time they just didn’t have the contacts so it was just…and the industry started to switch over and then we got the deal from…and you know by that point we’d released a couple records, they were already concept records like Can’t Stop was the next single we put out that was a record, that was like a letter to hip hop and that was already becoming conceptual.
After that me and Cutt split up as a group, we still worked together but it was just…the group thing wasn’t really what was popping then like late 90s/early 2000s…
Interviewer: Yeah you took like a 10-year break right? Like there’s a 10-year…
MI: Yeah but we didn’t stop making music separately…together, we still made music together and we still separately…like I went and worked with other producers for a while…I started producing myself, he went and worked with other artists and was DJing and doing a lot of engineering during that time, but we stopped… Constant Deviants thing, because Constant Deviants, it was just a era, the whole industry was shifting and just the group thing was kind of going out of…you know just wasn’t…the group name and everything just didn’t fit the time. And I got a deal with Arista Records with… and it just…where they were trying to…they were trying to go in. Cutt was still doing production for me but we just weren’t going as Constant Deviants, and that time it was pretty whack. I learned a lot.
PART 2 COMING TOMORROW!!